Directed by Nahnatchka Khan | Written by David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver and
Jen D’Angelo | 106 min | ▲▲▲▲△ | Amazon Prime
From the director of Always Be My Maybe comes this wacky and wildly entertaining spoof of teen, slasher, and time travel movies. Yup, it’s in the spirit of Scream but crossed with Hot Tub Time Machine.
Set in a small town called Vernon, America — but shot in Burnaby, BC — it’s Halloween, and teen Jamie (Kiernan Shipka, who for years was Sally Draper on Mad Men) is a high school junior who gives her mother, Pam (Julie Bowen) a hard time. Pam doesn’t like this time of year because back in 1987 three of her friends were murdered over a week by a serial killer who was never caught. While Jamie’s out, the killer returns and despite her years of prep, he manages to murder Pam.
However, Jamie’s best friend, Amelia (Kelcey Mawema) is a genius inventor who runs with ideas her genius mom (Kimberly Huie) gave up on — and Amelia has invented a time machine out of a photo booth at the local carnival. I guess it’s no weirder than a Delorean. As Jamie’s being stalked by the killer, she goes back to 1987, the week her mother’s friends were killed.
That’s when the fun really begins — the movie mines a lot of laughs from the cultural changes since the ’80s as well as the conventions of time travel movies — the things Back To The Future got right and wrong. Some of the biggest gags are around how Pam (Olivia Holt as a teen) was a mean girl and all her friends were Heathers, dubbed the Mollys because they all loved Molly Ringwald. Weirdly and funnily, when Jamie becomes a student at the high school in ’87, she claims to be from Prince Edward Island.
We’ve got a sprawling ensemble of teen characters, many of whom we met as adults earlier in the film in the present, but it’s not always easy to keep track of who everyone’s supposed to be — one of the things Back To The Future definitely got right. Also, Totally Killer is never really scary or raunchy enough to seriously compare with any 1980s inspirations — the killer wears a ridiculous mask and the blood and gore, when it comes, isn’t especially original. This is going to satisfy the audiences coming for laughs rather than the creeps.
The mystery of the killer’s identity is stretched to the breaking point, and when it’s revealed it’s less a surprise than a dangling subplot, one of the few that get resolved. But really, by then you’re on where this ride is taking you or you’re not, and no internal logic issue is going to matter. As Randall Park’s clueless cop says, “I hate time travel movies — they never make any sense.”